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Published: Friday December 13, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday December 13, 2013 MYT 6:55:16 AM

Lessons from Mandela for our children

As you watch the coverage on Nelson Mandela's passing, talk to your children about him.

As you watch the coverage on Nelson Mandela's passing, talk to your children about him.

AS the world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, I couldn’t help but think that his legacy of peace, resilience, tolerance and forgiveness are valuable lessons that we can pass on to our children.

As parents, how can we use his legacy to inspire a new generation to lead, in big and small ways, on the world stage or in their communities and personal lives. Mandela’s life and journey are a lesson in peace and equality and in the transformative power of resilience and forgiveness. These are all qualities that most parents would be pleased to have their child embody.

Consider asking your child, as you watch the news reports on Mandela’s life together, what they know about him. Reading an article to your child is another great way to try and personalise Mandela’s legacy for them. Highlight the values from Mandela’s life that resonate most with you as a parent.

Ask your child which of Mandela’s values they see in themselves or seek for themself. Ask them to point out people in their world – teachers, relatives and even you – who embody these values.

I remember when my godson was four years old and he’d describe his friends as “the boy with the yellow hair” or “the girl with the big smile and freckles.”

He never described is friends as “black,” “white” or otherwise. He described them based on their personalities or true facial features.

As adults, we sometimes find ourselves putting people in boxes that are most accepted by society. The beauty of our children is that they don’t see these boxes at all.

The opportunity to use Mandela’s life to talk about building character will allow your child to explore things that are beyond the surface, which is what most of us believe truly matters about others.

This passing of Mandela is also a moment to allow children to be inquisitive. They might not understand the values that can be learned at this time, but this is where you can step in as a parent to guide and explain, by giving living examples of these values in action.

The key is to teach our children to recognise what character looks like. Ask your child if the values they think are most important are ones that they would like to imitate.

As we know, words are powerful. Researchers all over the world tout the importance of having natural conversations with children, be it asking questions while reading books with them or helping children identify words during playtime; all of these activities lead to increased literacy for children.

By using Mandela’s life as a topic of conversation, not only are you giving your child a deeper perspective than they would naturally have had, but you will also give them a gift of increased perception of self, and an expanded vocabulary, which will serve them a lifetime.

* Angela Jackson is the founder of the Global Language Project, a nonprofit programme that teaches youth a second language while preparing them and empowering them to compete in a global workforce. Learn more at www.globallanguageproject.org.

Tags / Keywords: Family & Community, Nelson Mandela, parenting, values

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